As part of my degree in conservation biology, students were required to go on a compulsory holiday, ahem, sorry – ‘field course’ to learn about animal behaviour in the wild. We had the choice of England, Scotland or Cyprus. Funnily enough, most people chose Cyprus. The trip was in the Easter holidays three weeks after the end of term so, of course, I thought I may as well hitchhike there. Europe, however, is bigger than it looks. And to traverse its breadth in three weeks relying purely on the kindness of strangers is not as realistic as I imagined. I had got as far as Croatia and was over half way through my time when I realised that pretty much all I had seen of the countries I’d passed through was their motorways and petrol stations and in order to get to Cyprus on time, this was all I would continue to see. So I decided to just spend some money and actually see some stuff from the outside of a car.
My sister, Cait, came with me for the first section of the trip, from south-west England to Switzerland to visit a mutual friend in Geneva. This was the most intensive,, non-stop five days of hitchhiking I’ve ever done. This was Cait’s first time long-distance hitchhiking and it was also almost certainly her last. It was a long, hard, often cold, sometimes wet, mostly frustrating, always showerless journey. Where we slept in a tent by the road every night and stood by the road all day. As Cait said herself, “we have traversed the traversed the boundaries of wilderness and man for five long days, and have found the path to borrow from the worst of both worlds”. But on the plus side, we were picked up by some of the strangest people I’ve yet encountered on the road. As Cait also said, “it’s been bizarre, beautiful, infuriating and, above all, memorable”. Which, really, is what hitchhiking is all about.